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“Family friendly restaurants serving fresh cooked food to the sound of great music” that is how this restaurant describes itself. Yet my most recent experience visiting one of the restaurants felt more like the death of family dining than family friendly.

Don’t get me wrong, the food was pretty much as expected. It was something else that saddened me.

My family and I were on a road trip when we decided to break the journey and call in for a quick meal. The service was friendly and the waitress took our order.

Within just a few minutes, our daughter’s food arrived.

“Wow, that was quick,” I said to my wife. Thinking maybe it was a bit too quick to have been cooked fresh and to order.

Then we waited. And waited. And kept waiting.

Where was our food?

We called the waitress. She explained that our food was still being cooked, but that most families prefer the children’s food to be served as soon as possible to stop the kids from getting inpatient and annoying the parents.

What happened to table manners and waiting for everyone to have their plate before starting?

Not just that, but after letting our daughter start she had already finished before our food arrived. When is it easier to entertain your child, when you are all waiting for food or when you have your mouth full?

Having grown up learning not to speak with my mouth full (again, good manners) I think you can guess my thoughts on this.

Looking around it appears most kids were staring at gadgets as their parents ate. Is this really a way for our kids to learn social skills or how to eat together?

This incident happened a few months ago. I was going to blog about it at the time, but other things grabbed my attention and I wrote about them instead.

So why am I writing this now?

Well, I saw an article from restaurant critic Jay Rayner about the way so many restaurants insist on offering a ‘special’ menu for kids with inferior food.

This has long been a bug bear of mine. In fact, my favourite restaurant in the town I live in doesn’t have a kids menu – the kids just get a smaller portion from the main menu – and on reflection I think that is one of the reasons I love going there.

See, this restaurant is family run and has a true family feel by providing an environment where families enjoy a meal together. When my daughter was younger we would simply get an extra plate and share our food with her. Now she gets a small portion or we share a few dishes between us. The key thing is we eat together, we talk together and we make the meal a family occasion.

Why should our kids have inferior food?

These days children’s menus contain some very dubious ‘food’ that is often both prepared and cooked in an entirely different country from the one in which it is eaten. I don’t choose processed junk for my kids at home, so why should they eat it when we go out?

If it’s not deep fried breaded chicken or fish, it is white refined flour of some description (pizza, burger buns, pasta) and rarely is their anything more than a token amount of salad or vegetables.

Most parents will do anything to keep their children safe, so why do we allow big chain restaurants and pubs to treat our kids as an inferior species and feed them inferior food?

 

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